Music & Social Justice: Justice Studies and Activism


Redmond, Shana L. Everything Man: The Form and Function of Paul Robeson. Duke University Press, 2020.

From his cavernous voice and unparalleled artistry to his fearless struggle for human rights, Paul Robeson was one of the twentieth century's greatest icons and polymaths. In Everything Man Shana L. Redmond traces Robeson's continuing cultural resonances in popular culture and politics. She follows his appearance throughout the twentieth century in the forms of sonic and visual vibration and holography; theater, art, and play; and the physical environment.

Lenoir, Tim, and Luke Caldwell. The Military-Entertainment Complex. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018.

This text explains the conditions leading to and the current state of the military-entertainment complex as it is practiced in the United States. The military-entertainment complex permeates a wide variety of media including music, film, and video games.

Gray, Herman. “Precarious Diversity: Representation and Demography.” In Precarious Creativity: Global Media, Local Labor, edited by Michael Curtin and Kevin Sanson, 241–53. Berkeley, CA: Univ of California Press, 2016.

While not implicitly about music, "Precarious Diversity" explains the importance of social justice as a back bone for all media making. Additionally, the chapter explains how diversity and representation research in media is built off of statistics and enables a capitalist approach to race and ethnicity as discrete products.

Gonzalez, Martha. Chican@ Artivistas: Music, Community, and Transborder Tactics in East Los Angeles. University of Texas Press, 2020.

Gonzalez explores the intersections between music, activism, and social justice through her focus on Chican@ Artivistas in East Los Angeles. Drawing inspiration from the Zapatista movement and Fandango music, Gonzalez demonstrates how music can serve dual functions as a means for political commentary and community building.

Wong, Deborah. Louder and Faster: Pain, Joy, and the Body Politic in Asian American Taiko. University of California Press. 2019.

A cultural study of the phenomenon of Asian American taiko, the thundering, athletic drumming tradition that originated in Japan. Immersed in the taiko scene for twenty years, Deborah Wong has witnessed cultural and demographic changes and the exponential growth and expansion of taiko, particularly in Southern California. Through her participatory ethnographic work, she reveals a complicated story embedded in memories of Japanese American incarceration and legacies of imperialism, Asian American identity and politics, a desire to be seen and heard, and the intersection of culture and global capitalism.

Cheng, William. Loving Music till It Hurts. New York: Oxford University Press, 2020.

Music is often heralded for its healing powers, but in this book Dr. Cheng reveals the ways it can be used as a weapon harm others. Each chapter delves into specific examples of this harm, ranging from using music to contribute to the trope of the "supercrip" to music's involvement in perpetuating America's false meritocracy.

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